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Tired of Favre-Vick fiascos, football fans eagerly anticipate September


These are not easy times for the NFL fan, your headlines co-opted by two quarterbacks who bother you for very different reasons.

In Brett Favre, you have one of the league's all-time greats doing his annual retirement waffle, the legendary gunslinger who simply won't hang up his holster and go away.

In Michael Vick, who was released this morning from Leavenworth federal penitentiary and will serve the remainder of his prison sentence under house arrest, you have one of the all-time talents inching closer back to football, despite having operated a dog-fighting ring.

Can't we just talk about OTAs and Darrius Heyward-Bey?

As distinct as the quarterbacks' places are in the sporting landscape, there is a tie that binds Favre and Vick. Both have soaked up the adulation that comes with being a quarterback -- the most consequential position in sports -- and both seem destined to stand under center once again.

Seven years ago, I remember talking to former Giants quarterback Phil Simms when Favre started talking publicly about retirement for the first time. Favre was 33 then. The Packers were 5-1. Simms said don't believe it.

"I look at him now and I'm like, 'Just wait and see,'" Simms said then. "I've talked to so many guys who tell me they're going to retire, and I just say: 'You're never going to find anything you can do as well as this. You're going to retire when they kick you out.'"

Vick, of course, is on forced retirement, his livelihood taken away as a price for despicable acts. But how many quarterbacks willfully walk away without bouncing around to a couple of teams, or sitting by the phone and waiting for some GM to call?

Joe Montana had his elbow put back together and ended up in Kansas City. Who thought we'd ever see Kurt Warner in the Super Bowl after he flamed out in New York?

Steve Young, fighting concussions for the last part of his career, all but needed several doctors to show him pictures of his brain before deciding that walking away from football was the prudent move.

"The problem with being a quarterback is, the longer you play, the more enjoyment you get," Simms said at the time. "I loved playing, controlling the team. I was always going to play."

He then added of playing quarterback, "There's just no analogy for it. This is what Brett's going to run into."

Simms was saying this in 2002 and, seven years later, he has been proven more than right. After Favre's one-year stay with the Jets, the rumors about a jump to the Vikings are swirling again. Favre is quiet. His agent and the Vikings are giving half-answers.

Does Favre want to play football? Of course he does. And if his arm is good and healthy enough, he will.

For Vick, the outlook is murkier, even if the desired end game is the same. Vick wants to play football again and, no doubt, wants to play quarterback again, but he will have to cross many thresholds before that day comes.

Upon completing his sentence in a couple of months, Vick will have to show he is remorseful to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and he will have to prove he still has the tools to play the game to GMs looking to sign him.

But even beyond the physical and mental reps lost during a nearly two-year prison sentence (Vick last threw a pass in the NFL in December 2006), Vick and the team that signs him will have to be prepared for the pickets and bullhorns that will surely greet them.

Vick is making the right moves so far. While in prison he met with former Colts coach Tony Dungy, one of the most beloved figures in the history of the game. Vick also met with Wayne Pacelle, the president and chief executive of the Humane Society in the United States.

Does Vick deserve another chance in the NFL? Who's to say what anyone deserves? Vick engaged in deplorable acts. He also served time at Leavenworth for his crime.

The guess here is Vick will one day be standing under center again, running some team's offense like before.

Until then, the NFL gets to watch its latest offseason soap opera unfold. A diva who won't leave the stage. An ex-con who wants back in.

September can't come soon enough.